LOS ANGELES —
Deploying his unsought clout as a star, Gandolfini produced (though only sparingly appeared in) a pair documentaries for HBO focused on a cause he held dear: veterans affairs.
"Alive Day Memories: Home from Iraq" (2007) profiled 10 soldiers and Marines who had cheated death but continued to wage personal battles long after their military service had ended. Four years later, "Wartorn: 1861-2010" charted victims of post-traumatic stress disorder from the U.S. invasion of Iraq all the way back to the Civil War.
"Do I think a documentary is going to change the world?" Gandolfini said with characteristic modesty during an interview about the latter film. "No, but I think there will be individuals who will learn things from it, so that's enough."
His final projects included the film "Animal Rescue," directed by Michael R. Roskam and written by Dennis Lehane, which has been shot and is expected to be released next year. He also had agreed to star in a seven-part limited series for HBO, "Criminal Justice," based on a BBC show. He had shot a pilot for an early iteration of the project.
Gandolfini grew up in Park Ridge, N.J., the son of a building maintenance chief at a Catholic school and a high school lunch lady.
While Tony Soprano was a larger-than-life figure, Gandolfini was exceptionally modest and obsessive — he described himself as "a 260-pound Woody Allen."
In past interviews, his cast mates had far more glowing descriptions to offer.
"I had the greatest sparring partner in the world, I had Muhammad Ali," said Lorraine Bracco, who, as Tony's psychiatrist Dr. Melfi, went one-on-one with Gandolfini in their penetrating therapy scenes. "He cares what he does, and does it extremely well."